Friday, 5 February 2016

LASSA FEVER: MY NEAR BRUSH WITH THE VIRUS






The medical profession and it's myriad of hazards.
Each time there's news of a disease outbreak I sit back to await my mum's call and surely it comes. This time is no different. With news of the lassa fever outbreak all over the social media, mum called to ensure I was aware and was observing universal precautions. 

Just last week, I learnt a classmate and colleague of mine was admitted at the Teaching Hospital Irua where he is being managed for lassa fever. A lot of times we put up measures to protect ourselves from contracting diseases from patients whilst assuming our colleagues are infallible. Like the saying goes "Mmadu ekoteghi, ogodo ya ekotere ya" which means "If man doesn't bring problems unto himself, forces around him will do so".

Thus was the story of my close brush with the lassa virus.
Exercise has been one of my strong points for healthy living. As such, while undergoing my housemanship at UNTH Ituku-ozalla, I along with Wendy, a fitness freak friend of mine were regulars at the gym in the HOQ.
That fateful evening I called her up to know why she had rescinded her commitment at the gym and learnt she was unwell. Coming from work the next day, I stopped by her place. As per the nature of our friendship I made myself quite comfortable. Taking a bottle of water from her refrigerator, I reclined on the bed. She looked quite ill in her pyjamas.
"Nnem, you look like something the cat dragged out. What is the problem?" I asked.
"Dearie it's a long story" She said.
"I'm all ears" I responded.
"Did you hear about the patient that was admitted in female medical ward on Tuesday? The one that came from Abakaliki with a history of headache, passage of bloody urine, fever and yellowness of the eyes?" She asked.
"You mean the patient that was alleged to have absconded from EBSUTH when she was suspected of having lassa fever and didn't disclose the info on admission?"
"Gbam!!!" She sat up.
"Wait ooo. Tell me it wasn't your unit that saw her. I heard she vomitted on one of the attending doctors"
"My dear, not only did we see her, I was the house officer on call the night she was admitted. I also clerked and set a line on her, that was when she vomitted and some of the vomitus splashed on me" Wendy said.
At this point the off-thing about her face clicked. Her sclera were tinged greenish yellow.
"Chi mu oo" I exclaimed jumping up from the bed.
I continued our conversation from the safety of a chair all the while berating myself for not noticing the change at the doorstep and beating a fast retreat.
"The CMD had called the affected persons together and had measures in place" she said.
As I was heading to my house afterwards my steps had lost their spring. I had managed to cautiously protect myself from patients at the hospital, how was I to know that my dear friend and colleague would be my Achilles heel?
That weekend and the one after I artfully evaded home till I was sure I hadn't picked up the virus per chance.
Hmmm... Fortunately Wendy got better in about two weeks. For her, the upside of the illness was the weight she had lost without active intervention. Me?? Of course I wasn't going to throw my friend away but...I continued to show concern from the safety of a telephone. Fortunately, I didn't pick up anything so by the third weekend... I sashayed home.
But as a new wave of lassa fever is about, I can't help but ask myself "How much precaution can a person take? How much caution can one exercise?"

The following preventive measures will surely help:
-Stay away from rats.
-Keep food items out of reach of rodents.
-Don't dry food items in the open or on the roadside.
-Dispose of food items contaminated by rats, their droppings or urine.
-Try deratting the environment.
-Exercise caution while caring for the sick. Avoid contact with their blood and body fluids.
-Take sick family members and friends to the hospital.
These may not necessarily be all but...We'll just have to keep trying. 
Oh well!!! As my people say "Nkwucha abughi ujo" which means "Caution is not fear".
Do Stay Safe And Live Clean With Dr Ib.

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